California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger knows a star when he sees one. The Hollywood celebrity and action figure turned governor also serves as the National Honorary Chairperson for After-School All-Stars, and took some time Monday morning to praise the students of Brown Middle School who participate in the program.
Schwarzenegger, who was in town over the weekend as commencement address speaker at Emory University’s graduation ceremony, praised APS officials, Brown Principal Donell Underdue Jr., After-School All-Stars Executive Director Dr. Walt Thompson and Georgia Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle as leaders in working to provide students with after-school opportunities that including physical-education and other extracurricular activities as well as academic support such as tutoring. He also singled out After-School All-Stars Kirk Posmantur for his fundraising support.
But Schwarzenegger reserved his most glowing praise for the students at Brown Middle and their embracing the After-School All-Stars, a national program he started in California. He pointed out that 200 APS students and 2,000 Atlanta students attend afterschool programs. “Thank you to the students who have done such an outstanding job,” he said. “Afterschool programming is such an important program because it helps the kids in the afternoon to keep them away from the streets and to keep them here and help them with homework assistsance. Let’s help them wtih tuoring and give them arts programs, sports programs, fitness programs, and all those things they need so that they can get smarter. And because of that, you’re grades are going up, you’re improving, and you’re going to graduate.”
Schwarzenegger got a first-hand look at the success at Brown with a performance by the 11-member Men of Valor and Excellence step team (pictured above), which in only its second year of competition won the middle-school division state title of the Georgia Steppers League, held April 10 at the Cobb Civic Center. All of the members are After-School All-Stars and appreciate what the program does for them. “They teach me how to be a man and how to stay out of the streets,” said Brown seventh-grader Monta Benjamin, the team’s captain. Benjamin explained how he spends three days a week after school working on homework in the classroom with tutoring help from teachers, and the other two days fitness activities such as basketball, and the other three day. He only had one day of tutoring a week at his elementary school, and has improved his GPA to 3.8.
Men of Valor seventh-grader David Laster half-joked that he was so thrilled to shake the governor’s hand that he wouldn’t wash his right hand afterward. But he appreciated the governor’s taking notice in his hard work to stay in school and focus on academics. “It really means something coming from him,” Laster said. “You wouldn’t expect the governor to start a foundation like this. But this really helps us.”
Co-coach Nickey Sconyers confirmed the students’ commitment to hard work thanks to the program: “This really takes the youths off the street, and promotes brotherhood among them. You notice the change in their attitude, by the way they treat one another. Every one of those boys knows how to show respect, how to carry himself in public, and knows how to handle their business when it’s time to handle their business.”
APS Superintendent Dr. Beverly L. Hall also was in attendance, along with Atlanta Board of Education Chair LaChandra Butler Burks and SRT-1 Executive Director Sharon Davis Williams. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed was able to catch the tail end of the program. Atlanta Falcons football player Justin Blalock presented the governor with an honorary Falcons jersey: the No. 1, of course, with the name “Terminator” on the back!